Galleries : Kib Bramhall: Art and soul
Kib Bramhall's nearly 60 years as a painter are encapsulated in his studio: a wood-paneled room in his West Tisbury home that holds a collection of paintings on the walls. Appearing relaxed, the soft-spoken artist with a rather elegant air points out different pieces in his anthology of work that includes the first painting he ever sold, in 1957 (returned as a gift), a small oil painting of his brother and father fishing on Chappaquiddick rendered in thick and visible brushstrokes. Across the room there is a 1969 depiction of the Allen Farm - "The painting that inspired me to quit my job and move to Martha's Vineyard," he says. Another painting of three rocks on a river is from Mr. Bramhall's experiment in abstraction that he refers to as "an intellectual exercise."
The room embodies Mr. Bramhall's artistic experience and passion for his trade, two qualities that are evident in each of his paintings. His show at the Carol Craven Gallery, which opens this Saturday, August 22, demonstrates his breadth and depth as a representational painter. Among the 20 works that comprise the show are Vineyard landscapes and a selection of still lifes, all completed during the past three years. "It is a summation of subject and subject matter that has motivated my career as an artist," he said, acknowledging his passion for fishing and his love of nature in general and the Island in particular.
Mr. Bramhall took his first art class as a sophomore at the Hotchkiss School and describes feeling an immediately rush. After graduating from Princeton University with a degree in Art History, he pursued the visual arts until becoming a full-time professional in 1973. He has since had several one-man shows in Boston and New York.
The painter's love of the Vineyard also developed in his youth. He recalls his early captivation with the Island's beauty when he first came here as a 12-year-old in 1945. He continued spending summers on the Island until becoming a full-time resident in 1980. "The Island has become an emotional part of my life," the painter says.
Though he renders each piece realistically, he adds degrees of stylization depending on the subject. Squibnocket Beach is a common theme in several works classically represented. In one painting, crisp patches of grass decorate the rolling dunes in the front of the composition while the shore appears calm in the background underneath a blue sky.
An examination of light is evident in several of his works as well. One painting portrays the sky just after the sun has set over a crisp line of blue water. The vibrancy of the palette, as well as the mystical shapes of the dark clouds temper the realism of the painting
Mr. Bramhall prefers to allow his subject to materialize rather and not seek it out, an approach he could not afford in his youth as a struggling artist. "In the course of my life here I encounter things that tell me I have to paint them - so I do," he states simply, adding, "I let the subject matter come to me."
This characteristic imbues Mr. Bramhall's realistic paintings with sincerity and emotion. "If you own one of my paintings you own a part of me," he says. "I bring to my paintings what made me want to paint them in the first place. There is always something in the landscape, a hidden or obvious spirit."
Although he planned for this show to be his last, a recent purchase of art supplies might dictate otherwise. "Paintings are the punctuation parts of my life," Bramhall says. "Without them, life doesn't make much sense."
Kib Bramhall, Carol Craven Gallery, Aug. 22-Sept. 7. Opening reception, Saturday, Aug. 22, 5-7pm., Vineyard Haven. 508-693-3535.
Samantha McCoy is a freelance writer entering her senior year at Cornell University.